Tucson after dark is a much easier landscape to negotiate than the vast cultural sprawl of the Phoenix area. Rather than having numerous performing-arts centers all over the suburbs as in the Valley of the Sun, Tucson has a more concentrated nightlife scene. The Downtown Arts District is the center of the action, with the Temple of Music and Art, the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall, and several nightclubs. The University of Arizona campus, a mile away, is another entertainment nexus.
The free Tucson Weekly contains thorough listings of concerts, theater and dance performances, and club offerings. The entertainment section of the Arizona Daily Star ("Caliente") comes out each Thursday and is a good source of information for what's going on around town.
Club & Music Scene
Mariachi -- Tucson is the mariachi capital of the United States, and no one should visit without spending at least one evening listening to some of these strolling musicians. At the St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave. (tel. 520/623-6351; www.staugustinecathedral.com), there is even a mariachi Mass every Sunday at 8am.
Jazz -- To find out what's happening on the local jazz scene, contact the Tucson Jazz Society (tel. 520/903-1265; www.tucsonjazz.org). This organization's website lists various jazz nights at restaurants all over Tucson, including Old Pueblo Grill Alvernon, 60 N. Alvernon Way (tel. 520/326-6000; www.metrorestaurants.com), with live jazz on Sunday nights.
Gay & Lesbian Bars & Clubs -- To find out about other gay bars around town, keep an eye out for the Observer (tel. 520/622-7176; www.tucsonobserver.com), Tucson's newspaper for the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. You'll find it at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave. (tel. 520/792-3715; www.antigonebooks.com), as well as at the bars listed.
The Performing Arts
Tucson's performing arts scene is just as lively as Phoenix's, and three of Tucson's major companies -- the Arizona Opera Company, Ballet Arizona, and the Arizona Theatre Company -- spend half their time in Phoenix. This means that whatever gets staged in Phoenix also gets staged in Tucson. Tucson also has its own symphony and manages to sustain a diversified theater scene. Usually, the best way to purchase tickets is directly from the company's box office. Tickets to Tucson Convention Center events (but not the symphony or the opera) and other venues around town may be available by calling Ticketmaster (tel. 800/745-3000 or 866/448-7849; www.ticketmaster.com) or by stopping by the TCC box office, 260 S. Church Ave. (tel. 520/791-4101; www.cityoftucson.org/tcc).
Performing Arts Centers & Concert Halls -- Tucson's largest performance venue is the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave. (tel. 520/791-4101; www.cityoftucson.org/tcc). It's the home of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and where the Arizona Opera Company usually performs when it's in town. This hall also hosts many touring companies. The box office is open Monday through Friday from 10:30am to 5:30pm.
The centerpiece of the Tucson theater scene is the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. (tel. 520/622-2823), a restored historic theater dating from 1927. The 605-seat Alice Holsclaw Theatre is the Temple's main stage, but there's also the 90-seat Cabaret Theatre. Call for box office hours.
University of Arizona Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. at Park Avenue (tel. 520/621-3341; www.uapresents.org), on the UA campus, is Tucson's other main performance hall. It stages Broadway shows and performances by national and international musical acts. A big stage and excellent sound system permit large-scale productions. The box office is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm, and September to May Saturday from noon to 5pm and Sunday from noon to 4pm.
Originally opened in 1930, downtown Tucson's Fox Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. (tel. 520/624-1515 or 520/547-3040; www.foxtucsontheatre.org), is a restored movie palace that is now the city's most beautiful place to catch live music, a play, or even a classic or independent film. The box office is open Tuesday through Friday from 11am to 6pm and on performance Saturdays and Sundays from 2 hours before showtime.
The Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre, Pima Community College (West Campus), 2202 W. Anklam Rd. (tel. 520/206-6986; www.pima.edu/cfa), is another good place to check for classical music performances. It offers a wide variety of shows.
Outdoor Venues & Series -- Weather permitting, Tucsonans head to Reid Park's DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center, at Country Club Road and East 22nd Street (tel. 520/791-4873), for performances under the stars. This amphitheater stages live theater performances, as well as frequent concerts (many of which are free).
The Tucson Jazz Society (tel. 520/903-1265; www.tucsonjazz.org), which manages to book a few well-known jazz musicians each year, sponsors different series at various locations around the city. Tickets are usually between $15 and $35.
Classical Music, Opera & Dance -- Both the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (tel. 520/882-8585 or 520/792-9155; www.tucsonsymphony.org), which is the oldest continuously performing symphony in the Southwest, and the Arizona Opera Company (tel. 520/293-4336; www.azopera.org), the state's premier opera company, perform at the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall. Symphony tickets run mostly $36 to $60; opera tickets are $15 to $99. If you want to catch some economical classical music, check out the schedule at the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts School of Music (tel. 520/621-1162; www.music.arizona.edu). Performances include classical music and opera held in the Music Building's Crowder and Holsclaw halls, both of which are near the intersection of Speedway Boulevard and Park Avenue on the UA campus. Equally worthwhile are the performances by the UA Dance Ensemble, which are staged in the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, a little jewel box of a building. The bold contemporary architecture of this building makes seeing a performance here a double treat. Call the above number for information on performances.
Theater -- Tucson doesn't have a lot of theater companies, but what few it does have stage a surprisingly diverse sampling of both classic and contemporary plays. Arizona Theatre Company (tel. 520/622-2823; www.aztheatreco.org), which performs at the Temple of Music and Art, splits its time between Tucson and Phoenix, and is the state's top professional theater company. Each season sees a mix of comedy, drama, and Broadway-style musical shows; tickets cost $31 to $55. The Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. (tel. 520/882-9721; www.invisibletheatre.com), a tiny theater in a converted laundry building, has been home to Tucson's most experimental theater for more than 40 years (it does off-Broadway shows). Tickets run about $18 to $42.
The West just wouldn't be the West without good old-fashioned melodramas, and the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway Blvd. (tel. 520/886-9428; www.thegaslighttheatre.com), is where evil villains, stalwart heroes, and defenseless heroines pound the boards. You can boo and hiss, cheer and sigh as the predictable stories unfold on stage. It's great fun for kids and adults, with plenty of pop-culture references. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors, and $8 for kids 12 and under. Performances are held nightly, with two shows on Friday and Saturday nights, plus a Sunday matinee. Tickets often sell out a month in advance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.